15 November 2013

Bar Review: Northern Colorado's version of Havana has a lot of booze

Oh dear, oh dear--I have fallen in love with yet another bar in Fort Collins. Here goes nothing, old liver of mine...

The Astoria is a charmingly dilapidated space at 146 N. College Ave. that attempts to recreate the dilapidated charm of Havana.  Having never been there, I imagine The Astoria is heavier on the charm than Havana might be, but the tall ceilings, cracked plaster, heavy red velvet curtains, and slightly run-down (though comfy) furniture sells well enough to me. Like so many bars in Fort Collins, The Astoria boasts a long line of local taps, a good wine list, and over a dozen clever, retro-sounding cocktails.  But these guys also do food: simple, small(ish) plates of starches and protein to satisfy your drunken cravings and provide a little nourishment. The offerings and portion sizes are just right, and the cooking is skilled.  Here's what we got:

The shrimp ceviche had a nice bite thanks to generous squirts of lime juice and just a sprinkling of serrano peppers.  I could have eaten a large vat of this, but it was large enough for two to share, eating about  bites each.

Patatas Bravas were basically potatoes smothered in a smoky adobo sauce with three grilled shrimp on top.  The potatoes could have been crisper (maybe less sauce would have done the trick), but the sauce had a great earthy, and very smoky, flavor with a little heat at the end.

Lechon (roasted, marinated, and shredded pork butt) and Ropa Vieja (marinated, shredded flank steak) both came with white rice and seasoned black beans on the side. About the equivalent of lunch portions (I'm guessing 4 - 5 oz. of meat), this was fantastic comfort food while sitting by the fire.  The beans were seasoned well and cooked tender but not mushy, the rice was fluffy, and the meat was tender and juicy.  The pork marinade didn't come through as well as the one used for the flank steak, so the flank steak was a little more tangy and flavorful, but both were executed well.

We also got flan and rice pudding.  The rice pudding had a pleasant, mild flavor with a pinch of cinnamon, and the flan was intensely caramel-flavored--perhaps the best I've had in a restaurant.

I wish I had written down what I drank, because by the end of it, my mind was a blur.  I started with an El Presidente (vodka, gin, rum, and tequila with orange and pineapple juice in  sugar-rimmed glass with a cherry) and then had a cucumber-y gin thing.  Both were delicious and not too sweet.  The taps included seasonal and standard beers from New Belgium (of course), Equinox, and Odell, as well as some other popular Rocky Mountain regional names.   The service was relaxed but friendly (read: no hovering at the table), dishes were well-timed to arrive when we were ready for them without feeling rushed, and the vibe on a Thursday night was chill and more for the over-30 set.  There is frequently a live music offering later at night, however, so check in advance before you go. 

The Astoria Bar
                                                146 N College Ave, Fort Collins, CO, 80524
  T: 970-484-0995 /E: theastoriainc@gmail.com
     Bar Open Monday - Saturday 4pm - 2am, Sunday 7pm - 2am  
            Kitchen open Tuesday - Saturday 5pm - 10pm